The 2014 Human Development Report is methodologically more sophisticated in that, for the first time, it calculates the gender development index independently of reference to males. Equally, ‘Sustaining Human Progress: Reducing Vulnerabilities and Building Resilience’ would resonate among millions of ordinary people. Across countries and continents, several of them are still recovering from recent natural and man-made catastrophes.

The 2004 Asian Tsunami, the 2005 Hurricane Katrina, the 2007-2008 food, financial and banking collapse, and the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster preceded by an earthquake, among others, have brought humanity closer as it grapples with a common predicament underpinned by climate change and globalisation. These challenges also lay bare the imperatives of fashioning an internationally coordinated response in an inter-connected world. Indeed, most people in most countries have seen advances in their lives over the past three decades. But the premises of progress are increasingly precarious, argues the report, as new opportunities expose people to new uncertainties.

Children, women and the elderly are the most vulnerable, as are the young, in transition to the jobs market. Those immediately at risk are the 800 million people who have just about lifted themselves out of hunger and want, but are constantly vulnerable to returning to the brutal cycle of poverty. Income poverty continues to prove intractable, with 1.2 billion people still living below $1.25 a day. Another 1.5 billion people in 91 developing countries live with simultaneous deprivations in health, education and standard of living, according to the United Nations Development Programme’s Multidimensional Poverty Index. The 2014 report therefore advocates a return to full employment — a theme that had strong support in the 1950s.

Ranking 135th out of 187 countries on the Human Development Index, India could mitigate many of the challenges by creating universal access to health care, a more vibrant primary education system, and ensuring respect and protection for women’s freedom and dignity. But there are remarkable examples of India’s spirit of resilience and the capacity to draw vital lessons. The Naveen Patnaik Government’s action to relocate nearly a million people during the 2013 Cyclone Phailin in Odisha, spectacularly minimising casualties, is the most recent. The Indian government’s resoluteness in the wake of the provocative serial bomb blasts of November 26, 2008 was no less a triumph of moral courage and resilience. Public action and democratic accountability can strengthen communities against a sense of loss of control over their destinies.

Shivani Narwal completed her Bachelors in Economics at GGDSD College, Chandigarh. Currently she is a research scholar at Guru Jambeshwar University of Science and Technology (INDIA).

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